TWO SERMONS DELIVERED AT THE METHODIST CHAPEL, LUTON, BEDS. IN THE MONTH OF AUGUST, 1835. ONE BY THE REV. MAX. WILSON, THE OTHER BY THE REV. THOS. ROGERSON, BEING AMONGST THE LAST EFFORTS OF THEIR MINISTRY PREVIOUS TO THEIR LEAVING THE LUTON CIRCUIT. DUNSTABLE: PRINTED AND SOLD BY T. HIGGINS. ALSO, MAY BE HAD OF THE PUBLISHER, LUTON Price One Shilling, Pamphlet Collection Duke Divinity School A SERMON, DELIVERED BY THE REV. MAX. WILSON, In n> fHetfjolust OTfjapel, Huton, August, 1835. The subject of this evening's discourse, is found in the last clause of St. Matthew's Gospel, — Lol I am with you ahvay, even unto the end of the world. Our divine Redeemer, having finished the work upon earth which he was commissioned to do ; having made a sufficient, free, and full atonement for our sins, in his pain- ful and ignominious death upon the cross ; having risen again from the dead for our justification, and ascended into the world of spirits from which lie had descended, was pleased, my brethren, frequently to meet with his disci- ples, not merely to assure them that he was the same iden- tical person with whom they had been conversant while he was living the life of a human being upon earth, and that, though he had been crucified, dead, and buried, he was yet alive again ; but also to instruct them in the mysteries of his kingdom. And now, being about to ascend to heaven, to the throne of his Father, far beyond the reach of human eye, and to be worshipped and adored by all the celestial hosts, all the heavenly powers above, He gave them a commission that they should go forth and teach — " Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ; teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you/" O, what an important commission was this ! O, what an arduous task devolved upon these good men, these poor fishermen, and tent-makers, and tax-gatherers of Galilee ! To have a commission to go forth and teach all nations, all ranks, all orders, and all degrees of people, to observe whatsoever he had commanded them. Why, the commis- sion was enough to depress their spirits ; more indeed, one might suppose, than finite mortals could bear : but then, my brethren, our Lord was aware, not only that the com- mission was awfully important, yea, big with the most mo- mentous interests of the whole human family, but he knew also that, in the execution of this commission, and, as I have said, most arduous task, they would meet with so much scorn, so much contempt, so much obloquy, so much, indeed, of worldly, privation, so much of personal suffer- ings, so much, I may say, of human torture, and death in all its terrific forms, that he knew, my hearers, unaided by heaven, they would sink beneath the burden, and retire from such an Herculean task ; and therefore he gave them the encouraging promise of the text ; " Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world/ 5 I want no other memorial in the hearts of my people, that I have spent three years' ministry among them, than the recollection of the text. I care not indeed, compara- tively at least, if you lose sight of all my discourses, all the subjects I have attempted to discuss, if you do but retain this one single promise written in this inspired book — "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.' 5 That the disciples of our Lord might be able to execute this high command, the promise was given to comfort and encourage them in their important work ; and in calling your attention to this subject, I shall in the First place, remind you, of the import of the promise itself, and in the Second place, the application which the promise will admit. In the first place, let us look at the import of the pro- mise itself. What does it imply? What is included in the words, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world' 5 ? Certainly, in the first place, it must im- ply the perpetuity of the Saviour's existence. How, else, could he he with them always ? He was now upon earth, not being yet ascended on high, not being yet glorified in his human nature before the throne of his Father, but just upon the wing, just upon his flight to Heaven. "I am just about, my disciples, to leave you. You will see me no more, with these eyes of sense. I am about to ascend to the world of spirits. You will therefore, be poor solitary wanderers here ; but do not be disheartened, do not be discouraged, lo ! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world". Why, it must signify something more than occasional visits. I may, if life be spared me, be allowed occasionally to visit my Bedfordshire friends, and, possibly, the Luton Wesleyan congregation; but, you know, I could not pretend to say, "Lo ! I am with you alway 5 '. No, nor any finite being. No, nor Michael the archangel himself. He might say, I will visit you; I will take care of you; I will watch over you ; and, ultimately, I will not leave you; but he could not use the language of the text. No finite, no created being possibly could; therefore this implies per- petuity of existence. This is the peculiar character of Deity, "I am that I am". Thus was Deity pleased to make himself known to Moses, from the lambent flame in the bush that was not consumed; " I am that I am; the self-existent, independent, uncreated Being." This is the prerogative of Deity, and to this none but Deity can lay claim. You find, indeed, the son of Mary, the despised Nazarene, claiming to himself this distinguishing attribute of Deity. "Verily, verily , I say unto you, before Moses or Abraham was, I am 5 '. I am, the self-existent, independ- ent, absolute Sovereign of the universe. Why, then, there must be a sense in which he, who was born of woman, was a partaker of all the attributes and perfections of Deity. Yes, in his uncreated nature he is over all, God blessed for ever ; and hence, says he, " I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world": not onlv while on earth; not 6 only while I am allowed to continue here below in a visible form; but I shall be with you when this corporeal body that I received from the virgin will be glorified at the right hand of my Father on high. I am about to ascend, indeed, be- yond the reach of the eye of sense, but this will have no effect on my eixistence : I shall exist, in all my attributes and perfections, as one with the Father, when these eyes of yours shall see me no more : " Lo, I am with you alway even unto the end of the world". Why, my Brethren, if he be the Mighty God, and have a right to say, "All things that the Father hath are mine' 5 : if, indeed, it be truth, that he is the brightness of Jehovah's glory, and the express image of his person ; then we are assured, my hearers that, before him, time is but as the twinkling of an eye # Why, he here intimates that with him there is neither time past, nor to come, but all is an eternal now before him. Yes, he exists, and before him all distinctions of time pass away. He was in the beginning ; he existed antecedently to the beginning; and he who existed antecedently to the beginning, must he without beginning ; and he, who is without beginning, must be self-existent, must be God ; God, existing through all eternity, through an unending, undivided succession; and therefore he could say, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world". The promise, also, I apprehend, implies in the second place, the universality of the Saviour's presence, as well as the perpetuity of his existence. He who exists through all time, must, my brethren, exist through all space : He who is without beginning of days, and end of years, must, indeed, fill immensity with his presence. If it were pos- sible to imagine any place where he was not as God, then he would not be there; and, if not there, he might be sup- posed not to be elsewhere; and therefore not anywhere at all ; but there is nowhere where he is not spreading his in- finite essence; for, says he, "wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Now a created being cannot possibly be in two given places in one and the same time. That, you know, would be an absolute absurdity to suppose, that any finite being could be here and elsewhere. But, "lo" ,says he, "I am with you alway"; and "Wherever two or three are gathered together, there am I in the midst of thenr". Why then, he must be, brethren, a participator of the undivided essence of Deity; and that essence must be every where to give existence to all things, and to uphold all things. Yes, blessed be his name, while his presence is realized among the angels in heaven, while his glory is gazed on with rap- ture by all the spirits of the just made perfect, we may be individually realizing his presence, and shall find that he is everywhere present at one and the safne time. He knows no change ; he is with his people always, in every time and in every place. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world''. It is certain, indeed, that the church, at the time our blessed Lord gave this promise, was a very little church, consisting of but a very small number of people, all assem- bled together in an upper room. Why, the church did not require so comfortable and so large a place of worship as this : they could all meet together in a little room. But our Saviour knew that it was to increase and spread, till, ultimately, it should fill the whole world ; knew that that chosen band would increase, and that the church would diffuse its hallowing influence through the north, and through the south, and through the east, and through the west. And though, indeed, the first churches planted by the apostles might "pa^s away like the baseless fabric of a vision, and leave not a wreck behind^', as was, perhaps, the case with some of the Asiatic churches; yet he knew that his church would spring up in other lands, and in other regions, till his redeemed should become as numerous as the drops of dew from the womb of the morning, or the spires of grass in the fields, or the stars of heaven not to be numbered. 8 But, in the third place, the promise implies, not only perpetuity of existence, and universality of presence, but likewise the immutability of the Saviour's regards. " Lo, I am with you alway; with you, mine apostles; with you, my ministers ; with you, my people, even unto the end of the world". Why then it w r ould seem, my brethren, there is an immutability in the Saviour's regards, for those who love and fear him. I am with you, for I am the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. And he who was with the first inspired apostles is still with his chosen instru- ments and ministers, and will be to the end of time. He who was present with his little church in an upper room at Jerusalem, is still with his people down to the present day. " He knows no variableness, nor shadow of a turn- ing". Having loved his own, he will love them to the end; and there is the same regard for his faithful ministers now as there was then ; the same regard for his obedient peo- ple ; and we are assured, my brethren, that it was this that cheered the minds of his disciples. They knew what dif- ficulties they would have to meet with in the execution of their commission; they knew, indeed, that the world would frown upon them ; that wherever they might bend their steps they would have to encounter hardships, trials, privations, and death in its most terrific forms. But you hear one of these most blessed apostles saying, " None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of our Lord Jesus, to tes- tify the gospel of the grace of God". They knew, my brethren, that they would have to encounter with the pre- judices of their own countrymen, the Jews, those deep- rooted prejudices, which, they were aware, nothing short of divine power and influence could possibly surmount or subdue. They knew that the whole world of pretended philosophers, with all their arguments and oratory, would be in arms against them. Indeed, the humiliating doctrine 9 of the cross would be everywhere so repugnant to the false reasoning of these pretended philosophers, and so subversive of all idolatrous worship and wicked habits, that, in consequence of the opposition it would meet with, nothing but sufferings, and stripes, and imprisonment, awaited them: yea, death hovering continually around them, and all that is terrific to human nature. But we hear the the apostle declaring, " We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed ; we are perplexed, but not in des- pair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of our Lord Jesus, that the life, also, of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are also deliver- ed unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." Why, breth- ren, what would support these men in such circumstances, but an assurance of the immutability of the Saviours re- gard. You may be hated of men, forsaken of those that once appeared to be like minded with yourselves ; you may have schisms in the church, and be troubled with false brethren, more to be deprecated than all the beasts of prey that ever roamed the wilderness ; but yet you need not be disheartened, my love is still the same, and will be sufficient to support you, and enable you to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. This we ap- prehend is the full import of the promise. It implies the perpetuity of the Saviour's existence, the universality of his presence, and the immutability of his regard. He will be with his people alway, even unto the end of the world. But then, what is of importance to us, and more for our edification, is the application which the promise of the text will admit. And here, Brethren, you must very rea- dily perceive, that the application of this is, primarily and emphatically ; to all Christian ministers. I do not say to all Wesleyan ministers; for it is possible that there may be Wesleyan preachers who have not their commission 10 from on high. I do not say to every minister of the estab- lished church, for while some are living in the open violation of their profession, it is impossible that they should have a commission to go and preach the gospel. I do not say it applies to any class of dissenters exclusively; it will ap- ply to all whom the great head of the church has commis- sioned, as he did those poor fishermen, and tent makers^ and tax gatherers, to go forth and teach the gospel; yea, and take the whole world as their parish, for it does not appear that his ministers should be confined to one city, one village, or town, or hamlet. No ! his commission is "Go, and teach all nations". Well then, the application of this promise, you must perceive, is to all his commis- sioned ambassadors, of whatever name or denomination. We are all ready to suppose that none can be the commis- sioned ambassadors of Christ, but those of our own per- suasion ; as though, indeed, we supposed God to be as narrow-minded and as partial as ourselves; and can hardly imagine that man to be a minister of Christ who does not take exactly the same view of the analogy of faith as our- selves. But the head of the church knows the hearts of all his ambassadors; and he has, doubtless, thousands of honoured instruments in his church, who may not be of our persuasion, nor embrace all the truths we think con- tained in the book of God, to whom this promise applies, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world". Why, indeed, it is no human attainments, no learning, or knowledge of languages, arts, or sciences, that can qualify a man to go forth and preach the gospel of Christ. If, indeed, in addition to these human attainments and quali- fications, he have the divine commission, and be savingly acquainted with the truth, then, indeed, these human attainments, and these human qualifications, might, like the Egyptians' gold, enrich and beautify the sanctuary of God: but they are poor substitutes in the place of that commis- sion. Why, a man may speculate and reason upon the 11 gospel, and learn the art of preaching. Why not? If he have a retentive memory, he may be taught to preach in a mechanical way, as well as he may be taught any of the mechanical arts of life; but where, where are the seals of his ministry? Where the proofs of his divine commission? I know there is a considerable jealousy among a large por- tion of our own connection, in reference to what is termed the "Institution for Young Men," in London, called to the work of the ministry : and, indeed, if young men were to enter that, or any other place, to learn the art of preaching, I should say it would be a curse rather than a blessing. But if there be a young man of native genius and talent, but who has not had the advantage of education, will any man say, that, were he to be under the instruction of pious men, and to receive some addition of human knowledge and human qualifications, this would neutralize the divine commission, or disqualify him for a more sucessful minis- tration of the gospel? Why, how is it at this season of the year, our people are all attention to those who may be appointed to succeed the ministers who are to be removed to another part of the country ? They are very fond of knowing that their preachers are qualified for their work, and enabled to speak in their own mother tongue, without committing themselves so that a school-boy might say — "Why that man is no scholar: he does not know his own vernacular tongue: How can he preach to us?" It is indis pensably necessary that the divine head of the church be with them to reveal the deep things of God in their hearts; and then if they can receive any little additional instruction; why, that ministry, attended with the power of the Holy One, will be more cordially received by all classes. Again, he is with them, not only to qualify them for their work, but to direct and overrule their minds, as he has done in many instances. Often when they have come up, intent upon discussing some particular subject, they have felt their thoughts locked up within them ; their at- 12 tention has been suddenly diverted; another passage has instantly opened before them, and they have been enabled to speak with great enlargement. Herein is it manifest that the head of their ministry has been with them to di- rect them ; and unless he is with them to support them: and to enable them to execute their commission, they speak in vain; for a "Paul might plant, and Apollos might water, but the increase must be of the Lord". Then we must allow, that, whatever might be a minister's qualifica- tions, whatever his powers of eloquence, his logical argu- ment s, the soundness, I might say, and extent of his views of christian doctrine, all these, in themselves, would be no better than a " sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal". May the Head of the church fulfil this promise in those who are about to enter on their ministry with you, to qualify them for their work, and to enable them to discharge their ministry with success among all classes of people that may come under their word. May he be with them to support them under the trials, the difficulties, and the hardships they must naturally encounter in the full discharge of a christian pastor's duties; in their arduous and important task to search the oracles of God, and be ready to go from house to house, to warn and admonish, and even exhort with tears to be reconciled to God. No easy work for flesh and blood: it requires supernatural aid to do it with success. Men may preach, indeed, and draw vast multi- tudes after them, and be applauded by their hearers; but they never will be useful to souls without the application of the promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Again, I must remind you that this promise applies not only to christian ministers, but also to the church collec- tively, wherever that church may be found. I do not say, my brethren, the church of Wesleyan Methodism; for it is only and properly to' those who are members of the true church that this promise applies. Wherever the Saviour 13 has a collected people — wherever the ordinances of his word are administered — wherever the gospel is faithfully published — wherever, indeed, there are people met together in his name, there is he in the midst of them, and that to bless them. Are any of you a part of this visible church — a part of that house in which God delights to dwell ? Then the promise will be realized by you. He will be with you in all your acts of public worship, whether they be in a church, or a meeting house, or in a Wesleyan chapel, or in a private dwelling ; in the open air under the shade of a tree, or in a lane. He will be with you in all your acts of religious worship, to answer your requests and to listen to your songs of praise, which will come up as incense before the presence of his Father. When you attend the ordin- ances of the church, whether that of baptism, or the sacra- ment of the Lord's supper, or the communion of saints, when you "speak often one to another", he has promised to be present, to listen to all your complaints, and to sup- ply all your need. And in assembling together for social prayer, when two or three, or more than two or three agree to ask his blessing, think, think of the promise of the text. Have we not realized this promise more than once, or twice, or a hundred times, since we first came to- gether within these hallowed walls ? Have we never said, "God is here ; how dreadful is this place ! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!'* Have we not been ready to exclaim, " My willing soul would stay In such a frame as this ; And sit, and sing herself away To everlasting bliss.? And if our fellowship below In Jesus be so sweet, What heights of rapture shall we know, When round his throne we meet!" But I must hasten to a close, as the shades of evening are coming down upon us ; and will only observe that he has 14 been with his church in all times of calamity, in all times of persecution, of distress, and trial. Sometimes that church has been a little enfeebled band; and, like the wo- man in the book of revelation, has been obliged to leave her habitation, and flee into the wilderness to escape de- struction ; and yet she has been enabled to stand. What other collected body of people have stood so long ? where are those renowned empires, which arose in grand succes- sion, and astonished mankind for ages ? Long since have they passed away, and are found to exist only in the page of history. Mighty Babylon, Persia, and Rome, that dis- turbed the minds of men for centuries, and stood the won- ders of the world — where are they ? Swept from the face of the earth, and buried in everlasting silence : while that little band has continued to exist, to swell, to increase like the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and is ready to embrace all nations, kindreds, tongues, and diversified people upon the face of the earth. Yes, blessed be God, he has been with his church in seasons of iron persecution, when the blood of his martyred saints has run down the streets like streams of water ; he has been with his people when schisms have rent the church, and false friends have risen up among them, who professed to be of the sacred community, but "had come in privily, to spy out the liberty that they had in Christ Jesus, that they might bring them into bondage ?" Why, some say, Wesleyan Methodism is agitated to such an extent, that, in a very little time, it will be scattered abroad, and will have no connexion at all. But, if it be the cause of Christ, this can never come to pass. I have no more fear of its being stopped, or retarded in its progress, than I can doubt of its existence this mo- ment. There may be a variety of causes, and these adverse too, that may put us to the test, and serve to purify the doc- trine of the church, and refine us from our worldliness, and lead us to examine our first principles ; and not only to examine the system of doctrine we have published from 15 the commencement, but also to investigate that apostolic discipline, or what we conceive to be such, which so con- spicuously distinguished our predecessors. But what is all this, my brethren ? The great Head of the church declares " I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world 5 '. Why, the church may be sifted, and it will be sifted ; and we are assured, that, as the time approximates, when we shall come under a higher dispensation, ( I say we, though I may not be alive to see it), when christians will come, and when there will be greater success, and Messiah shall take to himself the mighty power and reign : — I say, that as we approximate that happy time, when war shall cease; when the instruments of human cruelty shall be converted into instruments of husbandry; when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and neither hurt nor destroy in all God^s holy mountain : — I say, in proportion as we approximate that happy period of the church, all christian communities will be sifted, and tried, and persecuted, and slandered, and defamed : but he, who is the Head of the church, will be with all his true people of whatever name, of whatever denomination. Finally, my brethren, the application of the promise is to all individual believers ; not only to the church collec- tively, but to every believer whatsoever. In trials, in suf- ferings, in privations, and in reproaches, he will be with you. He will be with you when you are forgotten; when even the members of your own household have little or no sympathy for you; when no human eye beholds you ; when, with broken heart, in secret you exclaim, u Wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" He will be with you, and will not turn a deaf ear to your cry : your sighs and your groans shall have an eloquence which the God of heaven cannot re- sist ; and he will bow his heavens and come down, and enable you to face and overcome every difficulty and dan- ger. He will be with you in the performance of your duty, 16 however arduous or painful that duty may be. You say sometimes, how can I among these thoughtless girls, and proud rebellious lads, or with this unbelieving companion of my life, how can I perform my christian duties ? But the head of the church declares "I am with you :" then he renders easy what would otherwise be impracticable. He will be with you in the performance of all your duties, those religious duties which you owe either to yourselves or to your fellow creatures. "I will be with you alway, even unto the end of the world;" and, if he be with you, you will have strength given you according to your day. And, finally, he will be with you, in the hour and ar- ticle of death. This is a very trying moment. My bosom friend, my dearest child, the wife of my affection, cannot soothe the sorrows of my heart in that awful moment, when eternity is ready to break in on my astonished vision ; but even then the promise is, "I am with you, I will not leave thee nor forsake thee." Why, it is this which has cheered many a dying saint, and afforded sup- port to many a poor timid female : one who has been all fear, and who has often thought, What shall I do when I come to die, when heart and flesh fail me; when death, in its terrific forms, is approaching; when the world of spirits is ready to break in upon me, What shall I do ! Why, you need not be alarmed ; the promise is still, I am with you alway, even unto the end, to the end of your in- dividual existence on earth; and in that end he can and will support you. In conclusion, I must observe that the promise in the text is sufficient to encourage us all. Whether we meet again or not upon earth is of no real consequence, if you do but bear in mind the promise in the text. If Christ be with you; if he be with his ministers who shall ascend this desk; if he be with you when you assemble in this place, or in other places set apart for the worship of God, if he be with you when seperated from your friends and dis- n eonsolate, why you will have all that will be needful to support you; and know that all things will work together for good to them that love God., to them who are the called according to his purpose. I leave the text with you, and then I am assured, whether I may meet with you or not, that if the head of the church be with you, all will be well. Now he is with you, but, by and by, he takes you home to himself, that where he is, there ye may be also, that ye may behold his glory, and be a participator in his happiness, which is lasting as eternity, and infinite as your desires. Perhaps there are some of you to whom this may not apply, who have heard the gospel for years in succession, who have no idea of the mind being comforted by realizing the pre- sence of the Saviour, who have no conception of the con- solation afforded to the humble mind by the fulfilment of this promise : but I ask you, what will be your feelings in the last hour, if you have not the Saviour with you? Why you will take an awful leap in the dark ; and if he be not there to meet you when you pass through the valley of the shadow of death, you must drop into endless miseries. May God, in his infinite mercy, manifest himself to you as a God of infinite purity, that you may become ac- quainted with your vileness; as a God of inflexible justice, that you may be tremblingly alive to your awful condition ; as a God of infinite mercy, that you may be enabled to pray for pardon: then shall you be a partaker of his king- dom, then shall the promise be to you, " Lo ! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Amen and Amen. May God be with you, and with me his unworthy ser- vant; be with us all, individually and collectively, even unto death, for his name's sake. A SERMON, DELIVERED BY THE REV. T. ROGERSON. In tfje iffletfio&t'fit (fftmpd, Uuton. August, 1835. - Luke, xiii. 6 — 9, — "A certain man had a Jig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, ' Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this Jig-tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?' And he answering, said unto him, 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it ; and if it bear fruit, well : and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down" Perhaps there may be individuals, in the present con gregation, who may be ready to suppose that the subject which we have selected for this evening's meditation, is unsuitable. It may be thought so, on the first glance. But although^ my brethren, we are not closing the regular period of the year, and entering upon a new year; yet we are closing the regular methodistical year, and we are en- tering upon a new methodistical year. Your ministers, who have laboured among you in the word and in doctrine, are about to take their departure; and while you have been favoured with christian privileges and with christian ordi- nances, during their ministry for three years, or for a shorter period, you must remember that you will be called to give an account of these priveleges ; and it is well for us to review the past, and it is likewise well for us to be put on our guard as respects the future. One of the most unpleasant parts of every minister's duty is to expose the transgressions of his hearers, and to denounce the judgements of God against all unrighteous- ness and ungodliness of men ; for notwithstanding mos£ 20 persons love wickedness, and therefore practise it, yet they wish to stand fair in their neighbour's estimation, and in their own; and to be amused with hopes, or at all events not to be alarmed with fears, concerning the future. But, however painful this duty may be, it is highly ne- cessary that it should be properly discharged. It is neces- sary on the part of the minster himself. His commission is, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear, to declare the whole counsel of God. He is to be pure from the blood of all. And it is no less necessary, too, on the part of the peo- ple : it is necessary that they should be convinced of what is wrong, that they may reform; and it is necessary that they should reform, that they may not perish. Thus, my brethren, the prophets of old shewed unto the people their transgressions and sins : in like manner the apostles of our Lord warned every man ; and the Lord Jesus himself, the blessed and the true witness, while he gave sufficient en- couragement to penitent sinners, yet strongly insisted on the necessity of sinners becoming humble and penitent, that they might escape those punishments which their sins had merited. Here we find him calling the Jews to re- pentance. There were some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering, said unto them, e Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things ? I tell you, Nay : but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, and slew them ; think ye that they were sinners above all men in Jerusalem ? I tell you, Nay ; but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise pe- rish/' These Jews, they repented not ; they would not receive the Lord Jesus as the Messiah ; consequently, evils and miseries fell upon them indescribable. Their city and their nation were destroyed by the hands of the Romans : but, however severe these sufferings were, Jesus was not •21 to blame ; for he not only forewarned them, explicitly, of the nature and extent of these sufferings; but, in order to impress the subject more deeply on their minds, he spake also this parable : "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none: then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, 6 Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig- tree, and find none; cut it down: why cumbereth it the ground ? ' And he, answering, said unto him, ' Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down." That we may profit from the words before us, we shall, by the help of God, direct our attention First, To the plantation of the fig-tree : — Secondly, to the complaint of the proprietor: — Thirdly, to the sentence of destruction : — Lastly, to the intercession of the vine dresser to sus- pend the stroke. In the first place, then, my brethren, we shall direct your attention to the plantation of the fig-tree. "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard." This certain man denotes the Almighty — denotes God. To him every thing belongs: "The earth is his, and the fulness thereof; the wide world, and they that dwell therein." Particularly the church is his, as it is called by his name, and is design- ed to shew forth his praise. In the scriptures it is fre- quently held forth unto us by the emblem of a vineyard, while the world is represented by a wildernes. The church in its outward state, is a visible and mixed community, so that amongst God's people, frequently are found wicked men ; men who "have a name to live, and are dead ;" men who wear the form of godliness, but deny its power. This observation will enable us to answer a question of great importance : who is meant by the fig-tree planted in this vineyard ? It cannot be a real christian, because all who are truly regenerate are fruitful. The good ground, 22 you must observe, brought forth, in one place, thirty ,"m another sixty ; and, in another, a hundred fold : and, al- thbu|fi it yielded in different proportions, yet every part of it Was productive. The character here intended, seems to be an individual placed in the outward and visible church, and blessed with all the advantages and immunities of such a situation. It was once the highly favored Jew, to whom pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants* and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises — whose were the fathers ; and of whom, as con- cerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. It is now the highly favored christian, blessed with all the advantages of Judaism, multiplied, improved* and perfected. It is now the highly favored Briton ; born not only in a land of science and of freedom, but in a land where the true light shineth, in a land of gospel grace. It is thou who art favoured with pious friends, with pious parents, who expostulate, and warn, and admonish. It is thou who hast a name and a place in God's sanctuary, sabbath after sabbath, where thine eyes see thy teachers, and where thine ears hear a voice behind thee, saying, "This is the way, walk thou in it. Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." But few, my brethren, are aware of the responsibility which attaches itself to such privileges^ For observe, although this fig-tree was planted in a vine- yard ; not in a desert, where it might perish for want of moisture ; not in a wilderness, where it might be destroyed and injured by prowling beasts ; not on a rock, where it might wither and die for want of nutriment and support ; but in a vineyard, a rich soil, where it had all the advantages which culture and situation could afford, yet it still produced no fruit. 28 But, secondly, let us notice the complaint of the pro- prietor. "A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vine- yard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, 'Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none." Every thing here is worthy our consideration, every thing here is important. Here we see his observation and his disappointment. He came seeking fruit. — Indeed, my brethren, God inspects all his creatures, to see what is in them. His eyes are upon the ways of man, and he pondereth all his goings. There is no dark- ness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. God comes unto us to inspect us, to see what we are doing with our trials, with our afflictions, with our advantages; to observe the formation of our prin- ciples, and the cultivation of our minds. And remember, he is not, cannot be mistaken. We may err in judging of our fellow creatures. We judge according to appearances, and depend upon the testimony of others; but he needeth not that any should testify of man, for he knoweth what is in man. Distance of time and situation add to our em- barrassment in the decision of disputed principles ; but all this is inapplicable to the being whose presence filleth heaven and earth ; and with whom one day is as a thou- sand years, and a thousand years as one day. And Oh ! my brethren, what does he think of some of us ? Here mark his disappointment: "1 came seeking fruit and found none." This shews that God not only observes those who are favoured with religious privileges, but that he expects fruit answerable to those privileges. Yes, my brethren, he knows the goodness of the soil in which you are fixed, and the degrees of culture you have received. He forgets none of your privilegs or his pains. In his book he has recorded when the gospel came unto you; and he knows how many sermons you have heard: and re- member that these were given to you, not only as mercies 24 which you were required to acknowledge, but as means which you are required to improve. They were given for this very purpose, and by this very purpose you will be judged. But, although his expectations are so reasonable, how often have they been frustrated. Behold, says he, I come seeking fruit : if it were oaths, if it were lies, if it were slanders, he would find enow; if it were leaves, the leaves of profession and appearance, he would find many : if it were blossoms of conviction, the blossoms of resolution, the blossom of attendance on the ordinances of God, he would discern not a few ; but behold, says he, I come seeking fruit. The fruit which God expects is repentance, faith, and obedience. But have we repented over our sins ? Have we mourned before God on their account? Have we felt true contrition of spirit ? Have we fled for refuge to the only hope set before us in the gospel ? And have we relied on the great atoning sacrifice as the ground of our acceptance with God? Do we bring forth fruits of righ- teousness, which, by Jesus Christ, are to the glory and the praise of God; and the fruit of the spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsufFering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance? Alas ! we have brought forth but little fruit unto his glory, and some of us are barren at the present period; and the language, which was given to Israel of old, is justly applicable to us. "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself :" And we may justly wonder why God has not consumed us. Here we discover the divine pains : "behold," says he, "I come these three years." These three years — why did he not complain the first year? Why did he not destroy it the second year? Why does he still bear with it till the end of the third year? Why! To shew us that he is God, and not man : that his thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways; that, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts thajn. our thoughts. Why ! — to teach us that he 25 is a God of boundless compassion, that he hath no plea- sure in the death of the sinner ; that he would rather that all should repent and turn to him and live. And therefore he bears with us so long as his perfections will allow ; and, even then, seems, to proceed with reluctance in the dis- pensations of his providence, and to cry over us, how shall I give them up? But remember this will not always be the case with the impenitent; for observe, in the third place, — The sentence of destruction. Then said he unto the dresser of his vine- yard, " Behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down: why cumbereth it the ground r" Here, my brethren, we perceive that they who derive no advantage from the means of grace, are detrimental. Barren trees not only yield no fruit, but they take up the room of other trees : they draw off the moisture from them. All of them do this; but the injury is in proportion to their size and age. Who can tell the mischief resulting from a long continued course of sin and worldly mindedness? Who can tell the injury which many characters do by their profession of religion, whilst they deny its power? But this is not all. A mere pro- fessor of religion is injurious : he causes the enemies of God to blaspheme, to suppose that religion is either hy- pocrisy or deceit. He grieves the godly ; he causes the hands of ministers to hang down ; he hears, in vain, the sermons which might convert others. If, says our Lord, the mighty works which have been done in thee, ( when speaking of Chorazin and Bethsaida ) had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. Again, in this sentence of destruction, we perceive that unprofitableness, under the means of grace, is exceedingly provoking to the Most High. And can we wonder at this, when we consider what a waste of time, what a disregard of the soul and of eternity ? " He that knoweth to do good, 26 and doeth it not, to him it is sin : and the servant who knoweth his lord's will and prepareth not himself, neither doeth according to his will, shall beaten with many stripes : while he who knoweth not his master's will, and committeth things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with comparatively few stripes. Upon this principle it is easy to perceive that there is not, there cannot be an individual in the world so guilty as the man who enjoys the privileges of the gospel, and yet remains unrighteous still. He has no cloak, no possible excuse for his sins : their commission is without excuse, and their punishment will be without any alleviation : the hell of a heathen will be nothing when compared to the hell of a christian. Lastly, my brethren, from this, sentence of destruction, we observe that God has justice as well as mercy, and, though he bears long, he will not bear always. Because sentence against an evil world is not executed speedily, as a natural consequence, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil : but how absurd and dangerous is such a fatal reason! Is forbearance forgiveness? No. nor connivance, either. a These things hast thou done, and I kept silence : thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver/* The husbandman at length orders his axe to be brought, and laid to the root of the tree, and the commission goes forth, — (C Cut it down ; why cumber- eth it the ground ?" Lastly, we consider the intercession of the vine dresser to suspend the stroke. " And he, answering, said unto him, c Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it ; and, if it bear fruit, well : and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." Brethren, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much with God. God, in answer to the entreaties of his servants, has fre- 27 quently averted his wrath, and turned aside his fierce anger. Moses prayed unto the Lord ; and God, in answer to his intercession, spared Israel. "And the Lord said unto Moses, go, get thee down ; for thy people which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted them- selves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them : they have made them a molten calf and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said these be thy Gods, O Israel ! which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand ? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak and say, c For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth 5 ? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, and Isaac? and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and said'st unto them, e I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. 5 ' "Lord, let it alone this year also." Whose language is this ? It is the language of a pious individual in behalf of an ungodly relative. It is the language of a pious wife for a profligate husband; "Lord, let him alone this year also." It is the language of a godly father in behalf of an impious and profligate son ; "Lord, let him alone this year also/ 5 It is the language of a sister for a brother, and a brother for a sister; "Lord let them alone this year also.' 5 Hov. 28 can I, how shall I bear the destruction of my own kin ) It is the language of a minister for his people: such a minister not only preaches but he prays. He can say, with one of old, I seek not yours, but you. He is desirous of promo- ting the best interests of the congregations to whom he ad- dresses himself, and so far is he from wishing the evil day to approach with all its horrors, that he endeavours to ward off the fatal blow, and engages to use additional dili- gence in order to bring them to Christ. But, while he sees the folly and unbelief of his people, how they are bound in sin and wickedness, between the porch and the altar, he cries unto his God, "Lord, let them alone this year also.'' But above all, it is the language of Christ, the great mediator between God and man. My Brethren^ "He ever lives above, For us to intercede, His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead; His blood aton'd for all our race, And sprinkles now the throne of grace." He himself maketh intercession for the transgressors: he pleads before his Father, on our behalf, and cries, while he views careless and negligent sinners: "Let them alone this year also." In the first place, he pleads for the suspension of the stroke ; Lord, let them alone this year also. Thou hast borne with them long : O bear with them a little longer. And why is he so anxious that a sinner should be spared ? Because, brethren, in order to our having repentance, it is necessary we should have space for repentance. Because, while there is life, there is hope. But when the present life is over, then it will be, "Let him that is righteous be righteous still ; and let him that is filthy be filthy still." "When the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord! Lord! open unto us: he shall 29 answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are/' Opportunity is over, importunity is vain. He engages to use additional means to produce fertility. "Till I shall dig about it, and dung it." The word shall be preached with more fervour than before : the minister shall be particular in describing his case, and alarming his conscience, and arousing his fears. Afflictions and disap- pointments shall shew him the vanity of the world; the necessity of dependence on God alone for happiness; and not on any creature, or upon any creaturely good. Death shall enter his family, and smite his connexions by his side. The day in which he lives shall be dark and cloudy : he shall hear of the "distress of nations with perplexity: the sea and the waves roaring: men's hearts failing them for fear* and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." And can he retain his ungodliness through such a year as this ? Here is the supposition of future produce. "If it bear fruit, well: and, if not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down/' "If it bear fruit, well." The word well is not found in the original Greek: there we find nothing but an awful pause. — "If it bear fruit." Our translators have properly supplied the word "well." The vine-dresser had undertaken to bestow additional labour and culture on the fig-tree ; and he intimated that if his labours succeeded they would be the cause of gratification to all the parties concerned. It would be well. Well for the proprietor of the vine- yard : "for herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." It would be well for the vinedresser, as his labours would be crowned with success. The Redeemer would then see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied. The inferior labourers also would greatly rejoice. It would be well for the vineyard, as it would be adorned and replen- ished where it was encumbered before. It would be well for the tree itself, as it would escape the curse of barren- 30 ness, and obtain the blessing of fruitfulness. It would be well for the tree itself as it would be transplanted in a no- bler vineyard above, where it would bud and blossom, and bring forth fruit to God^s glory for evermore. "If it bear fruit well :" and ah ! my brethren it would be well for the drunkards in Luton where they to become sober : it would be well for the swearers would they learn to blaspheme the awful name of their Sovereign and Maker no longer : it would be well for those who neglect their families, were they to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of of the Lord. "If it bear fruit, well" Here is the doom of the finally impenitent. And if not, then, after that "thou shalt cut it down." There is some- thing in these words tremendous beyond all expression. They not only tell us of the certainty of the event, but they likewise shew the disposition of the vinedresser con- cerning it. He here intimates that he will interpose no longer : and we see his mercy, not indeed in delighting, but in acquiescing in our destruction. The refuge, open to us before in every time of danger, is now closed. While the Saviour was our friend, we always had a resource : but the Lamb of God has become the Lion of the tribe of Judah- "The great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ?" "If not, then, after that, thou shalt cut it down. 3 ' Here the parable breaks off. We want to know more ; but in vain. Particularly we wish to know whether ano- ther year was granted to this importunity; but all is silence; is righteous silence; quite in accordance with the language of the Scriptures, in which we are no where assured that God will give you another year, another month, another day. Particularly, we want to know whether, if the boon was granted, the tree became fruitful. But not a word con- cerning it. - If we judge from circumstances in general it remained the same. Brethren, there is a hardening of the heart through sin, and there is likewise a hardening of the heart through the means we possess of obtaining salvation. 31 The latter is the more dangerous of the two. Truths may meet the former character, and arrest him in his career to misery : but the latter can hear nothing new. God, Christ, salvation, the threatenings of the law, the promises of the gospel, the glories of heaven, the terrors of hell, have all expended their force and influence on him in vain. It is true, with God all things are possible. O seize this last, this trembling hope, and seek the Lord while he may be found. Let our hearts' prayer to night be "Save, Lord, or I perish." But this subject, likewise, leads me to address those of you who have not only been planted in the vineyard of God, but are alive to him through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is a mercy that you are not wholly barren, altogether un- fruitful. But, brethren, have you not brought forth but very little fruit to his giory ? Consider the number and value of your privileges. You have had " line upon line, and precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little." You have had all the helps which your cases could require. You have been planted in the vineyard of our God, and yet have not many of you been almost barren and unfruit- ful ? Call to mind the past, review the years which have rolled over your heads, while your present ministers have laboured amongst you ; and ask yourselves whether you have brought forth fruit corresponding with your profes- sion, and the number and value of your opportunities. Brethren, may we not take up the language of the poet, and say, " What have I done for him who died To save my wretched soul 1 How are my follies multiplied, Fast as the minutes roll." May the time past more than suffice wherein we have wrought folly. But, brethren, the subject likewise leads me to address those of you who have sat under our ministry, from time to time, and notwithstanding you have been blessed with 32 these privileges, yet your hearts are unrenewed. Brethren, we feel for you. What a lamentable consideration, that, notwithstanding you are so highly favored, you are still u in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. 5 ' The proprietor of the vineyard had come three years to inspect the fig-tree; but God has come to some of you five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, it may be sixty years, and has found no fruit. You have heard of the dan- ger of unprofitableness. You have heard that the axe is now laid at the root of the tree ; and " Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire." While we have laboured amongst you, many have been called to exchange this world for another. Many who were connected with you, perhaps less guilty than yourself, have fallen into eternity. But you are spared. Ah ! perhaps this is the very year for which the vine dres- ser has been pleading. Perhaps the Saviour has said, " Grant this, for I cannot ask another year, another month, another day." One thing is certain: — "There is no w T ork, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whi- ther thou art going." Therefore our cry should be with this of Moses, — "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." And what is wisdom ? Wisdom is a relative thing : and this is so true that what is wise in one man to do, would be folly in another. The question, then, is this, — Whatisthe wise part for you to act, considering the circumstances in which you are placed? Now what does prudence and common sense dictate in other cases? If men have an important journey to under- take, wisdom consists in preparing for that journey: if a man be in danger from an overhanging precipice, it is wis- dom for him to flee : if a man be on the verge of eternity, with a disease which threatens his destruction, his wisdom is in looking after a physician and a remedy. Now this is your case, brethren. You have a most important journey to undertake. You are flying fast as a winged arrow through 38 the air, into a boundless eternity. The question that pre- sents itself is this, — "How make mine own election sure, And, when I fail on earth secure A mansion in the skies?" You are diseased with a mortal disease, infected with a plague of leprosy which will ruin, unless it be cured, both body and soul for ever. But there the physician sits, and he cries to-night, he cries to you, "wilt thou be made whole?" "Salvation in that name is found, Balm of our grief and caie ; A medicine for our every wound, All, all, we want, is there." And he is ready to cure, without money and without price, You are hanging over a precipice of destruction, the preci- pice of hell, but in Jesus Christ is safety; and you may fly for refuge now to lay hold on the only hope which is set before you in the gospel. Betake yourselves then to this Saviour, and say, "Save me, and I shall be saved.'' And may you seek the justification of your person, and the sanctification of your natures, with all the importunity the necessity of the case requires, and so much more as ye see the day approaching; so that whether your life here be short or protracted, whether you live you may live unto the Lord, or whether you die, yoi* may die unto the Lord ; so that, whether living or dying, you may be the Lord's. The Lord add his blessing, and to his name be the praise. Higgins, Printer, Dunsta h le.